Legendarily “discovered” at a Hollywood malt shop when she was 15, Lana Turner became a popular pinup model during World War II. Turner resisted being typecast as just a pretty blonde and sought dramatic roles in film noir and historical features. Sometimes her tumultuous personal life overshadowed her onscreen work — she was married seven times, and her teenage daughter stabbed her abusive mobster boyfriend in 1958. But Lana Turner persevered and received accolades until the end of her career, when she guest-starred on the TV soap Falcon Crest, just as glamorous as ever.
Turner only made a few frock flicks, but they’re fabulous fun so let’s enjoy!
Auber in The Great Garrick (1937)
She has a small role in this movie about the 18th-c. actor David Garrick, famous for his Shakespearean roles.
Not historically accurate but stripey & cute! Also, this is before she went blonde.
Maid in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
Vaguely yellowface with those ridiculous eyebrows. To her credit, Lana Turner reportedly “hated the costumes and her makeup” in this film.
Beatrix Emery in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
Finally blonde & co-starring with Ingrid Bergman in this Victorian horror flick.
Elizabeth Cotton in Honky Tonk (1941)
This picture always cracks me up! It’s like the three women are dressed for three different movies.
Marianne Patourel in Green Dolphin Street (1947)
A popular romance set in the 1840s.
Lady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (1948)
Lana Turner’s first technicolor film, & hoo-boy, did Walter Plunkett go wild with the colors in these costumes!
This hat is the most hilarious thing in all of frock flicks.
She makes for a wonderfully wicked Milady!
Crystal Radek in The Merry Widow (1952)
Supposedly set in the 1900s & based on a musical, mostly an excuse for Lana Turner to swan about in grand gowns & jewels.
Plus expose her “merry widow” undies.
Samarra in The Prodigal (1955)
All sexed-up as a pagan priestess in this Biblical tale.
Diane de Poitiers, Countess de Breze, in Diane (1956)
Her final costume drama but the best, with gorgeous 16th-c. gowns by Walter Plunkett.
These gowns feature tons of embroidery & elaborate details.
Lana Turner learned to ride & fence for this movie, doing all her own stunts.
While unsuccessful at the box office, I feel this movie is underrated, so if you watch any of Lana Turner’s historical films, do look for this one!
What’s your favorite of Lana Turner’s historical costume movie roles?
Diane and I’m not sure it counts but it’s Betrayed with Gable set during WWII involving the Dutch Resistance
I’ve always had a soft spot for Lana. I love her pairing with Clark Gable in Honky Tonk!
That hat is hilarious but also, I want it!
That makeup in Marco Polo reminds me of Star Trek. Did MP visit the planet Vulcan?
It’s the same makeup they gave Myrna Loy in those “Asian villainess” roles she did early in her career, like THIRTEEN WOMEN and MASK OF FU MANCHU– before she became “America’s ideal wife” after teaming up with William Powell in the THIN MAN movies.
It’s just eyeliner drawn down at the inner corner, plus eyebrows slanting up at the outside. And yeah, it’s pretty much what they did with “cat women” and later Vulcans on STAR TREK.
In other movies like THE GOOD EARTH, they went with actually altering the upper eyelids with pieces put over them– which really wasn’t much more convincing, and just looked like white people with badly swollen eyelids.
The Good Earth is hard to get through because of that . . .
3 Musketeers, I think, but Diane was also pretty good. There’s a name for those stupid head pom-poms, but I can’t remember it; probably the most authentic costume piece in the film — except for the base.
I see they got Diana de Poitiers trademark black and white wardrobe anyway.
I know they’re technically not tit swag, but those faux Tudor accessories frame her quite well.
This was bugging me all day– that shot from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) didn’t really look like Lana Turner. The face was kind of “off” even though the hair seemed right.
And it’s not Turner– it’s actually a shot of Ingrid Bergman with Frances Robinson, who plays Ivy’s friend Marcia.
I’m not even sure if Beatrix Emery and Ivy have any scenes together in the film, other than in those weird, potion-fueled sadomasochistic fantasy sequences where they’re getting whipped like horses. (What was Victor Fleming on?)
I love Green Dolphin Street! I feel like no one has ever heard of it. It was hard to find for a while. Really beautiful story of sacrifice and love and life not going how you expected.
I’ll have to look up Diane.
There’s an interesting story for why Lana’s dresses all have cleavage pins in The Three Musketeers. Apparently the censors thought she was showing too much décolleté, so costume jeweler Joseph of Hollywood made the pins so they wouldn’t have to scrap Lana’s costumes. Joseph of Hollywood was also a longtime friend of Walter Plunkett, and collaborated with him on all of his projects.
Lana Turner and Ava Gardner had both been married to Artie Shaw, the band leader. They would get together and discuss his abusivness towards woman and their awful experiences with him. Lana and Ava got along very well. A couple of great gals who survived Shaw’s wrath.